You have a dream, right? We all do. Well, most of us. Those that don’t wander through life knowing neither glory nor failure. So, congratulations if you have a dream. What goes with that dream?
Whatever that dream may be, it will have something attached to it. You may want to sing, paint, write, fight, be a TV star. The list goes on, but no matter what that dream the common denominator is said attachment. And what is that attachment, what is that thing that holds us back, makes us doubt, perhaps makes us self-scorn? Fear. That lovely, horrible, powerful, yet beatable word, fear.
My own personal journey was littered with the damn thing. For every goal I aimed for, fear was a wall in the way, but that wall can be smashed, yes indeed. My early years were not good, spent under the domain of violence and violent people.
My first beating took part before I was 10-years-old and as I progressed through life so did the beatings increase in both volume and intensity. Beaten to blood for wearing the wrong colour coat, lying on the floor getting kicked in the head whilst a potential girlfriend looked on, horrified.
Her look of horror turned to surprise after the beating ended and my foes had all left the building. You see I was so used to being somebody’s punch bag that I just got up, wiped the blood from my face (with my wrong colour coat sleeves), and suggested a trip to the local pub.
Wisely, she suggested that perhaps a trip to a nearby relative to look me over would be a better idea. She was right and I saw the same look of horror on the face of that relative as that of said potential girlfriend when my face was revealed. Said relative ushered me inside and tended to me properly, administering first aid, hot tea, and a word of advice.
“You have to put a stop to this Simon. It's going to get too big for you. Put a stop to it and soon.”
Later that night in the comfort of my own company, I finally broke down and admitted to myself that yes, indeed it was getting too big for me. But what to do?
Before I even got around to addressing the problem it did indeed get bigger. I should have heeded the monkey on your back story, but I didn’t. Not yet at least. Step aside the gang offended by unsavoury coats and enter a lone wolf, a deranged and very violent lone wolf.
His choice of torture was a sustained, psychologically damaging campaign of hate. He would think nothing of turning up at my home to intimidate, threaten, and put me in fear of my life. He cared not who was inside, not even my father who himself had a reputation of violence. In fact, lone wolf seemed to relish the thought of a go at said dad.
He and his favoured implement of torture, a very large, very sharp knife, finally broke me. As he yelled his war cry and gave chase through the streets, I fled to the safety of a nearby friend’s house and banged on the windows, begging for safe haven.
It was granted and I was returned home in one piece, physically at least but the mental damage seemed beyond repair. Outwardly nobody noticed as I hid it well, but panic attacks were now a daily occurrence, agoraphobia loomed, and I descended, I spiralled.
Along came a girl who was to be my saviour. She was the first person I ever opened up to and, well, slowly but surely, I got better. I started to look for a way out. I had previously sought salvation through the world of Karate and was taught by my sister’s boyfriend but that gave way when—yes, you guessed it—he too gave me a beating. A stupid row with my sister prompted him to defend her honour and so his 15 stone, second dan black belt pitted against my 8 stone yellow belt encouraged him to kick me to the floor and to his delight, carried on the assault as I vomited profusely.
I left Karate a bitter and broken kid so why on earth would I return, at my lovely girl’s suggestion, to a system that had left me so hurt both mentally and physically? What, and be like said hero boyfriend? Nope, no thanks—thanks but I’ll pass.
Girlfriend persisted, encouraged, and convinced me that there were other dojos, other instructors that could help but, well you know? There was that word again. Girlfriend had now sown a seed in me, a seed that said maybe I could knock these panic attacks on the head, destroy my fear of life, and make a go of Martial Arts.
I gave it some thought. Well not some thought but more of lots of thought. Heaps of it, in fact. To the point of distraction some may say. Sadly, every positive image of me making a go of it, every snap shot in my mind, was accompanied by that BIG word… FEAR.
I struggled, I read, I listened, and I thought about it but how do you combat something so big? How do you deal with it? What was it I needed to finally break fear’s large, horrible, strong, and poisonous grip? And then I got it. The word, the concept, the attitude I needed. I got it and it was like somebody switched a light on. I needed courage.
So, I set about developing my courage little by little. After all, what is the best way to climb Everest? One step at a time.
I started off in a style of Karate where the sparring (fighting) was very light contact. If you competed and drew your opponent’s blood, you were automatically disqualified. It served its purpose. It gave me exposure to a combat arena, a place where punches and kicks were acceptable, expected, required. It also gave me exposure to an audience. The 12ft x 12ft mats gave no place to hide.
After a certain amount of time had passed, my confidence grew and I made the decision to move up to a heavy style of Karate. Freestyle Karate allowed for heavier blows and bloody noses and black eyes were commonplace. This brought a new fear but as that fear grew, so did my courage.
I am going to fast forward some years, to a time when I became a full contact, all out, award-winning fighter. I was now fighting at knock out level and, adding to this the chance, you could be choked unconscious—well, it goes without saying that to enter this arena took a huge amount of courage.
The beauty of this kind of exposure to adversity and my willingness to overcome it meant that courage spilled over into life outside of fighting.
No longer was it a task to venture out into the outside world. No longer did I struggle to make eye contact or hold a conversation with my peers. I now stood comfortably on stage talking to audiences. I enjoyed giving interviews with radio stations, newspapers, and media outlets worldwide who were keen to hear my story.
I took to the written world like a fish to water, penning six globally selling books and many magazine articles. If I had not beaten my fear, I had certainly learnt to control it and that was only possible with courage.
So that was my story, but how about yours? You may have no interest in the fighting world at all and this is perfectly acceptable. We all have dreams and aspirations that we would love to fulfil but may lack the fortitude to aim for them. My advice to you would be to start off slowly. This is your Everest.
You may be a legendary musician in the making but can’t quite make it onto the stage so one small step at a time. Invite a selected audience of family and friends to listen to your performance and choose wisely. Choose a balance. Don’t go for "easy, easy," a crowd that is going to gush praise just so your feelings aren’t hurt but also don’t go for people who are going to blast you, rubbish you, and embarrass you.
Go for the ones that know it's your first go around and who will offer constructive criticism whilst offering support and advice. Pick the ones that will see the good in you whilst not getting carried away with the hurrahs. This kind of love may be kind but may set you up for a fall later on when it really matters (the big stage).
Before your performance, before any performance, you are going to feel adrenalin, apprehension, and butterflies in your stomach that seem to be sharks eating away at you (and your dreams). In my experience, as soon as you start to perform those same butterflies disappear, fly away if you will, only to be replaced with endorphins, a good feeling, and a sense of accomplishment.
Long before that you will need a system in place, a system to help develop courage and it starts with self-talk. You need to be the catalyst, you need to start the ball rolling with self-talk. Every time we aim high or dream big, we have a voice inside us that mocks us, challenges us with phrases like “Who do you think you are to (insert your very own dream here)?”
It is important to put those voices right back and offer your own challenge. “Well, I am here trying. I am here willing to take risk and aim for what I want.” Make your voice strong, believable, honest.
Give that voice some fuel. Now you are on your path, your journey, then offer it inspiration and read, listen, and watch those on the same path as you who are steps, yards, and miles ahead.
A massive influence in my life was a Martial Artist who became a bestselling author and known throughout the world. I read everything he wrote and tried to emulate him. We actually became good friends and as well as that friendship, he mentored me, guided me.
One day during an everyday conversation, he remarked that I was “snapping at his heels.” This blew me away as I hadn’t seen it this way at all. He laughed as I replied, “I think it is more following in your footsteps” and he reinforced his original statement. At this point, I realised that I was indeed snapping at his heels.
Imagine that. Just imagine how you will feel when your hero, your mentor, the person you look up to, sees you as an equal. All your hard work, all your sacrifice, all your heartache, failures and triumphs have bought you to this place.
Be it music, writing, dancing, acting, running, painting, anything at all that you want to do, that you dream of. Imagine having it. And in the end, all it took was courage (and yes, I married the girl).
Simon is the author of six books including the award winning From Bullied to Black Belt, a True Story. Visit him at www.simonmorrell.com